Finally, armed with a 14 weight fly rod, three 12 weights,
one eleven weight (my wife's), one 10 weight, two 8 weights, two Jackson
Lake trolling rods loaded with 20 pound mono, one 30 pound rig, a 50 pound
rod, one Brittany spaniel, one wife and the bible "Baja Catch"
we set for one month of camping and fishing on Mexico's Baja Peninsula.
From the beginning we knew this would not be a delicate fishing trip with
5X tippets throwing size 20 Blue Wing Olives. This was a battle.
My tackle boxes were stuffed with teasers that were purple, red, yellow,
silver, black and bigger than my last Gros Ventre River cutthroat trout.
My fly boxes had flies with hooks so big that I used a set of vise grips
mounted on conduit which I bolted to my fly tying bench. What fish could
resist 2 - 10/0 hooks lashed together with 100 pound wire and had a half
a saddle of pink feathers on it. Anticipation of a new boat can send any
man into a mild state of insanity.
One thousand miles on Mex 1 from San Diego to the bottom of Baja had
stories, but nothing compared to the 21 days that began when we crested
the mountains overlooking Los Barriles. Scattered through the bay were
boats, lots of boats and mostly fishing boats. Something must be happening
down there. Set up camp, find ice, get beverages, shove the boat on the
beach, find reels and rods, get gas and water and buy more beer were all
on the agenda. This was paradise and somewhere out there swam a fish as
big as my boat.
We hired a guide in a Mexican panga to see how they might fish for a
marlin and dorado. A day of trolling around with Javiar yielded two roosterfish
on sardinas (a local baitfish) and later a dorado and marlin, which were
both lost. It was good fun but Javiar was doing all the fishing, thinking
and driving the boat.
One hour before sun up my wife Erica, Brian Horn, Cody, the fish dog and
myself all shoved off to the sea in my 14 foot aluminum Gregor. The GPS
unit read 2.1 mph at top speed so we knew it would take a while. The sun
was a magnificent ball of red and orange as we slid through the early
morning light. Finally, lining up Isla Cerralavo and Punta Colorada we
knew we were over the canyons. If the charts were correct, 3 gringos and
a spaniel were in 3 to 4 thousand feet of the greatest marlin water on
earth. The GPS unit indicated that we were 16 miles off shore.
Horn and I set up rods while Erica videotaped and the dog peered into
the depths. Almost joking I held a black and purple teaser high and gave
thanks to Jeff Currier for his donation to the adventure. Between Horn
being eaten by sharks, whales and swamping our boat we tied leaders and
knots with impeccable care, thanks to Jeff. Fly fishing was discussed
at length, but today, our first day in a 14' boat we tied 10/0 hooks to
our teasers instead.
Off I started, with the boat speed as the next item of debate. Horn says
faster, I say slower, Horn says to go north, I say we ride the troughs.
You become very intimate with the ocean and team work is critical. I was
the captain and Horn watched out the back, making sure the teasers were
popping on the 3rd wake at 4 second intervals. Without any warning or
visual strike the 50 pound rig doubled over and 50 pound Ande was screaming
off the reel.
This was it! Chaos erupted in a 14' space. Nobody saw the fish or the
take. The run put so much force on the rod holder that neither Horn or
I could pull the rod out. After nearly 200 yards the run stopped and a
100 pound plus striped marlin launched into a series of leaps that left
the 3 of us in awe. Screams of fear and excitement followed and Horn grabbed
the rod. Between the 15 hp motor, the ocean swells and one really excited
Brittany I cleared the other rods and Erica began videotaping. Oh my God,
we had a fish on that was nearly as long as our boat. Rather than pulling
the fish to the boat we found ourselves pulling the boat to the fish.
Teamwork is the real experience out here. We battled for over an hour
with a 140 pounds of striped marlin pulling us through the ocean. The
leaps were spectacular and frightening at the same time. I knew that eventually
that the creature would be next to our boat and so would that 3 foot long
bill. Closer and closer it circled.
A massive boil off the starboard side revealed him. Ten to twelve feet
of electric iridescent blues and greens lit up the ocean. Barking orders
back and forth Horn and I moved the massive fish boat side. Suddenly mayhem
erupted. Without gloves on, Horn walked his hands down the 135 pound leader
and grabbed the bill. The next 5 - 8 minutes became a blur. Horn was hanging
halfway over the side of a 14 foot boat with a death grip on a really
upset marlin. I changed to the other side of the boat to keep us balanced.
The thrashing and hollering from Horn and the marlin subdued after about
What an incredible moment when we landed a marlin that measured only 2
feet less than the boat. The hook was buried in deep somewhere amidst
Horn and the bill, and I worked without success to remove it. Finally,
I cut the leader in desperation. Holding the bill and dorsal fin upright
we powered up the motor to revive a magnificent fish. Within ten minutes
of pumping water over his gills he gave a powerful tail thrust and the
three of us watched as the beautiful marlin slipped down into the depths.
Our techniques became more refined during the rest of the trip. The GPS
unit indicated that we spent most of our time 12 - 18 miles offshore.
During the remainder of the trip we caught 20 - 30 dorado, several yellowfin
tuna in the 30 - 50 pound class and three other striped marlin. Two of
the marlin we brought on board for pictures and then released them. Occasionally
we threw the fly rod after we hooked a dorado and another one came in
close, but primarily we used other methods of fishing.
The trip is over now, but often I daydream. The image of that first marlin
silhouetted in the sky attached to our little boat will stay with me forever.
I can't wait to return.